Prevention Talk: June 2020
Helen M. Exum, BS Senior Prevention Educator
Twin County Recovery Services, Inc.
Maintaining Equilibrium During Adversity
Children like adults, experience stress, anxiety, and fear. To address those feelings, I recorded videos for elementary school children that focused on stress management strategies. These strategies are Deep Breathing or Diaphragmatic Breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Focused Breathing, and Visualization All these techniques are simple, easy to use and produce wonderful results. You can access them on the Twin County Recovery Services website under news. Look for school videos for grades K-5. Giving children the tools for managing their feelings can enable them to maintain good mental health. Mental health issues resulting from the fear, anxiety and stress the pandemic is causing are on the rise. Children need their parents and care givers to provide a “Safe Place” and reassurance right now. Consider making time for relaxation exercises as a family activity. This sends the message that caring for our mental and emotional health is as important as caring for our physical self. Children are watching and taking cues from our non-verbal behaviors as well as our verbal messages. Maintaining a calm reassuring demeanor is crucial to creating a safe comfortable atmosphere for them. Promoting a positive attitude in how you approach the problems facing your family is comforting.
Routines give a sense of normalcy and purpose to life and have a stabilizing effect on the family group thereby reducing stress. Set times for study, work and play. A daily routine helps accomplish these goals. Children feel secure when they know what to expect. Confidence and independence develop as they learn to function within the set parameters of a routine. Routines enable families to function more smoothly by eliminating occasions for strife between members. Time is more effectively managed allowing for more freedom for the family to pursue personal and group interests.
We all need a purpose in our lives. Actively contributing toward achieving specific goals fulfills that need allowing for a sense of accomplishment. Including children in family planning and decision making reduces their sense of helplessness, builds self-esteem, and teaches basic life skills such as planning, cooperation with others, and setting goals. Having a voice in determining a course of action builds confidence and pride. When children participate in family planning, and decision making they are learning essential life skills necessary for success as adults while reducing stress and fear. Planning and positive thinking gives people courage to face difficult times and situations.
Encourage your children to share their feelings and concerns. Listen and respond respectfully to them. Share your values and beliefs. Talking to your children builds and strengthens the parent- child bond. An open, honest, accurate and age appropriate discussion about the coronavirus outbreak, social distancing and school closings will go a long way to quell a child’s fears. Share your feelings of empathy for those who are suffering. Encourage your child to express his or her own feelings. Reassure your children that you are taking care of them and they will be fine.
Take time to play together. Physically exerting games relieve stress while strengthening the body. Quiet activities are opportunities for sharing family stories. Sharing your childhood experiences is a great way to bridge the generation gap and further build and strengthen bonds. Introduce your kids to some games you may have enjoyed as a child. Learn their games. While the COVID-19 pandemic is gravely concerning, we can find a balance between the anxiety that is normal and the positive optimistic attitude necessary for survival. Let “Home” be a safe, happy place for you and your children.